Times Spent Outdoors: Priceless!

A Gem To Put On Your Calendar

Arizona Boaters Invited To Port Townsend In 2015

The 38th annual Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend, Wash., kicked off with sunny weather in the mid 70s and more than 300 wooden boats on hand.

This is not your typical boat show! There were no dealers or marinas or Alaskan fish lodges hawking their wares, not even the latest super kitchen gadget.

There were a few boats for sale and these were clearly marked with a simple plastic for-sale sign. As always, there were how- to classes, discussions with naval architects, and a few vendors of all things nautical. There was a boatbuilding class for kids that sent them home with a pond sailer.

Well-Known Designers

Among the boat designers, Sam Devlin is perhaps best known as a pioneer in stitch-and-glue construction. There is usually a contingent of owners showing their Devlin boats and this year was no exception. My favorite might be the Millie Hill shanty boat.

Also on hand was Jay Benford, well known for his cruising designs, salty looking and very capable. His ferry boats scurry all over Victoria harbor carrying tourists and local commuters daily. For decades. His designs are featured in a series of books available from Tiller Publications.

Pygmy Boats graciously lets people try out their different craft in the harbor, where they keep a storefront year round. They sell plans and kits for a variety of canoes, kayaks, and pulling boats.

In the same market , their East Coast counterpart, Chesapeake Light Craft, was well represented with classes and test rides in finished boats as well.

Arizonans Among Visitors

The majority of boat owners cheerfully welcome everyone aboard for a tour of their pride and joy although some ask that shoes be removed beforehand. In fact, that friendliness may be the cornerstone of the festival. It's a large part of what brings more than 30,000 visitors each year.

Oddly enough, the first few people with whom I struck up conversations were from Arizona. (I guess San Diego was all booked up!) Did I mention the weather was perfect?

There were a few trailer boats on display at the waterfront-facing courtyard. This was an opportunity to get a feel for the different hull shapes and how they are used. Long and narrow generally means faster and easily driven; wider for more stability. The compromises are what keep things interesting.

Some of the boats in the courtyard were built and finished to an incredible level - way beyond all but the finest furniture, museum quality really. As the winner of a classic car show, I admire the workmanship but the practicality is questionable.

At the other end of the spectrum were the century-old tug boats and other working craft floating dockside and slapping against the pier - tough old boats, indeed.

More Than A Boat Show

Being a festival and not a boat show, there was music and a food court that offered up some real surprises. Wonderfully fresh seafood, handmade ice cream, an espresso bar to rival any were just a few of the treats on hand.

Bar Harbor was a large tented affair with a stage for the music, a dance floor, and tables set up to enjoy your meal. Oh, and it's divided by a plastic fence into a family area and an adult area serving craft beers and local wines.

For music, think Prairie Home Companion, blues, and beach bar, playing well into the evening - a great way to unwind after a long day on foot.

Tickets ranged in price from $10 to $30. A membership in the Northwest Maritime Center has more levels than a cruise ship but seniors pay $25 with a one-day festival ticket and other benefits included.

The price is well worth it, and it helps keep the tradition of wooden boats alive. Many of the boats are older than I am.

Join Us In 2015

Lodging in Port Townsend is already booked for next year and is premium priced for this event. There is lodging usually available In Sequim to the west or Poulsbo to the south, both about 25 miles away. Both are worth spending an additional day or two exploring.

Hope to see more Arizona boat enthusiasts here next year.

Cheers, The Ship's Carpenter


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